OOS 26-7 - Ecosystem services in urban landscapes: who benefits?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011: 3:40 PM
16B, Austin Convention Center
Mary L. Cadenasso, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

Urban landscapes provide many ecosystem services to residents and these services may be managed 1) intentionally to address a specific problem or sustainability challenge, 2) unintentionally as a result of an intervention directed at a different problem or challenge, or 3) by default when no mitigation efforts are made.  Frequently a management intervention focuses on an entity, such as tree canopies, assuming that it will provide a desired service, such as air, water, or climate regulation.  The service, however, is rarely quantified.  Associated disservices, which are likely, are also rarely quantified.  In addition, the implementation of a management intervention, and its ability to provide the anticipated service, is context dependent and the intervention and resulting (dis)service may be realized at different spatial scales.  Who benefits from interventions intended to provide ecosystem services?  This is not simple as urban landscapes are typically heterogeneous across multiple scales and this heterogeneity is a result of biogeophysical and social characteristics.  Ecology and environmental justice share an interest in differentiation across space and through time.  Ecology focuses on the heterogeneity of structure and function, determining where in the landscape an intervention should be applied to best achieve a desired service.  Environmental justice, on the other hand, is concerned with the heterogeneity of equity, or the equitable distribution of services among the population.  Therefore, efforts must be made to assist urban managers in prioritizing 1) services, 2) mitigation options to provide those services, and 3) the spatial distribution of those services within the context of environmental justice. 


A new framework developed to operationalize the integration of ecosystem services and the equitable distribution of those services will be presented.  This framework begins with societal benefits, desires, and outcomes which must be specific to a problem or sustainability challenge.  Combining these benefits with existing knowledge about the biophysical environment, including built and non-built components, allows identification of relevant (dis)services and (dis)amenities.  Specific measurables to assess whether or not a service or an amenity is provided can then be articulated.  Tradeoffs among the (dis)services and (dis)amenities can be evaluated for multiple mitigation options aimed at providing the same benefit.  This framework follows an adaptive management procedure for evaluating ecosystem services and environmental justice across spatially heterogeneous urban landscapes.  Working with communities to manage services provided by the urban landscape is critical for promoting the understanding of ecosystem services and developing strategies to enhance multiple ecosystem services.

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